Tesla NZ will start as Aussie operation

Tesla has signaled intent to set up shop in New Zealand. However, it seems the operation might initially be run out of Australia

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OFFICIAL introduction of Tesla to New Zealand will likely be initially orchestrated from Australia, a brand spokesman has indicated.

Confirmation that Tesla is finally acknowledging New Zealand as a relevant market came in a communique from founder Elon Musk in the wake of the April 1 global reveal of the Model 3.

This is the fourth all-electric model to come from Tesla and – at at least one third the price of its best-known product, the Model S - the affordable car that Musk says he set out to build from the very beginning.

Musk tweeted New Zealand was among half a dozen additional markets being considered for the budget model, which starts out for the equivalent of $52,000 in its home market.

Fans here – including the core following that has established the brand’s presence here through promotion of their privately-imported, mainly Tesla S, product - shouldn’t get too excited: The Model 3 doesn’t enter right-hand drive production until 2018.

Tesla Australia, which has been operating for two years and is the geographically closest distributor to New Zealand, also commented at the weekend about the Model 3 coming to this country.

However, when asked today to clarify its position in regard to sales and support on this side of the Tasman, the Melbourne-based operation was cautious and vague.

Asked to clarify Tesla Australia’s position in respect to this country, spokesman Heath Walker said: “In the short term, the AU (Australia) will be taking the lead, however I cannot say what the long term structure will look like.”

In addition to hoping to glean information about how a distribution network might look, Motoring Network also sought information about what the local order interest in the Model 3 has been.

So far only Mighty River Power has publicly identified itself as a prospective buyer, however Walker declined to provide specifics.

“In the short term all that is occurring is Model 3 reservations. We are not announcing anything further than this, nor are we releasing any regional numbers.”

Overseas’ media is reporting that Tesla has taken $NZ14 billion worth of orders for the Model 3. Intending purchasers only had to lay down $US1000 for the car and that triggered an avalanche - 115,000 orders were in the book before it had even been revealed and, by the start of this week, the count had virtually trebled.

Musk has already suggested this interest has prompted a production plan rethink.

Like Tesla’s other models, the all-new Model 3 boasts some pretty impressive headline figures. Although exact specifications have not yet been confirmed, the car is claimed to be capable of accelerating from 0-100kmh in less than six seconds in its most basic form and can eke out 400 kilometres from one charge.

Telsa’s founder has confirmed that, like the Model S large sedan, customers will have the choice of either rear-wheel drive or higher-performance four-wheel drive with more features.

“Model 3 will be RWD, with a dual motor AWD optional. Even RWD will have great traction on ice due to fast torque response of Tesla drivetrain. And, of course, it will have more cowbells (Musk-speak for ‘features’)”.

Tesla hasn’t the unprecedented order numbers have pushed out wait times for customers, but Musk has explained to other media that orders are region specific and early adopters would be given priority in their respective country.

“A Model 3 order gives you priority in your geography, so, even tho (sic) total count is high, ordering early will make a big difference locally.”

Meantime, expect the brand to take the spotlight in a North Cape to Bluff drive for full and range-extender electric cars to talk up the environmental benefits of emission-free motoring.

Three Model S Teslas are in a drive, which starts tomorrow and is organised by the brand’s highest-profile ambassadors, Steve and Dee West. Also on the run is a BMW i3 and examples of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which can rely on their back-up petrol engines to keep the batteries active. The event wraps up on April 23.